Ten states, however, have adopted their own laws that specify which patients, based on their income and family size, qualify for free or discounted care. Among them is Washington, where Providence is based. All hospitals in the state must provide free care for anyone who makes under 300 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that threshold is $83,250 a year.

In February, Bob Ferguson, the state’s attorney general, accused Providence of violating state law, in part by using debt collectors to pursue more than 55,000 patient accounts. The suit alleged that Providence wrongly claimed those patients owed a total of more than $73 million.

Providence, which is fighting the lawsuit, has said it will stop using debt collectors to pursue money from low-income patients who should qualify for free care in Washington.

But The Times found that the problems extend beyond Washington. In interviews, patients in California and Oregon who qualified for free care said they had been charged thousands of dollars and then harassed by collection agents. Many saw their credit scores ruined. Others had to cut back on groceries to pay what Providence claimed they owed. In both states, nonprofit hospitals are required by law to provide low-income patients with free or discounted care.

“I felt a little betrayed,” said Bev Kolpin, 57, who had worked as a sonogram technician at a Providence hospital in Oregon. Then she went on unpaid leave to have surgery to remove a cyst. The hospital billed her $8,000 even though she was eligible for discounted care, she said. “I had worked for them and given them so much, and they didn’t give me anything.” (The hospital forgave her debt only after a lawyer contacted Providence on Ms. Kolpin’s behalf.)

was a single room with four beds. The hospital charged patients $1 a day, not including extras like whiskey.

Patients rarely paid in cash, sometimes offering chickens, ducks and blankets in exchange for care.

At the time, hospitals in the United States were set up to do what Providence did — provide inexpensive care to the poor. Wealthier people usually hired doctors to treat them at home.

wrote to the Senate in 2005.

Some hospital executives have embraced the comparison to for-profit companies. Dr. Rod Hochman, Providence’s chief executive, told an industry publication in 2021 that “‘nonprofit health care’ is a misnomer.”

“It is tax-exempt health care,” he said. “It still makes profits.”

Those profits, he added, support the hospital’s mission. “Every dollar we make is going to go right back into Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Alaska and Montana.”

Since Dr. Hochman took over in 2013, Providence has become a financial powerhouse. Last year, it earned $1.2 billion in profits through investments. (So far this year, Providence has lost money.)

Providence also owes some of its wealth to its nonprofit status. In 2019, the latest year available, Providence received roughly $1.2 billion in federal, state and local tax breaks, according to the Lown Institute, a think tank that studies health care.

a speech by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures.”

Ms. Tizon, the spokeswoman for Providence, said the intent of Rev-Up was “not to target or pressure those in financial distress.” Instead, she said, “it aimed to provide patients with greater pricing transparency.”

“We recognize the tone of the training materials developed by McKinsey was not consistent with our values,” she said, adding that Providence modified the materials “to ensure we are communicating with each patient with compassion and respect.”

But employees who were responsible for collecting money from patients said the aggressive tactics went beyond the scripts provided by McKinsey. In some Providence collection departments, wall-mounted charts shaped like oversize thermometers tracked employees’ progress toward hitting their monthly collection goals, the current and former Providence employees said.

On Halloween at one of Providence’s hospitals, an employee dressed up as a wrestler named Rev-Up Ricky, according to the Washington lawsuit. Another costume featured a giant cardboard dollar sign with “How” printed on top of it, referring to the way the staff was supposed to ask patients how, not whether, they would pay. Ms. Tizon said such costumes were “not the culture we strive for.”

financial assistance policy, his low income qualified him for free care.

In early 2021, Mr. Aguirre said, he received a bill from Providence for $4,394.45. He told Providence that he could not afford to pay.

Providence sent his account to Harris & Harris, a debt collection company. Mr. Aguirre said that Harris & Harris employees had called him repeatedly for weeks and that the ordeal made him wary of going to Providence again.

“I try my best not to go to their emergency room even though my daughters have gotten sick, and I got sick,” Mr. Aguirre said, noting that one of his daughters needed a biopsy and that he had trouble breathing when he had Covid. “I have this big fear in me.”

That is the outcome that hospitals like Providence may be hoping for, said Dean A. Zerbe, who investigated nonprofit hospitals when he worked for the Senate Finance Committee under Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa.

“They just want to make sure that they never come back to that hospital and they tell all their friends never to go back to that hospital,” Mr. Zerbe said.

The Everett Daily Herald, Providence forgave her bill and refunded the payments she had made.

In June, she got another letter from Providence. This one asked her to donate money to the hospital: “No gift is too small to make a meaningful impact.”

In 2019, Vanessa Weller, a single mother who is a manager at a Wendy’s restaurant in Anchorage, went to Providence Alaska Medical Center, the state’s largest hospital.

She was 24 weeks pregnant and experiencing severe abdominal pains. “Let this just be cramps,” she recalled telling herself.

Ms. Weller was in labor. She gave birth via cesarean section to a boy who weighed barely a pound. She named him Isaiah. As she was lying in bed, pain radiating across her abdomen, she said, a hospital employee asked how she would like to pay. She replied that she had applied for Medicaid, which she hoped would cover the bill.

After five days in the hospital, Isaiah died.

Then Ms. Weller got caught up in Providence’s new, revenue-boosting policies.

The phone calls began about a month after she left the hospital. Ms. Weller remembers panicking when Providence employees told her what she owed: $125,000, or about four times her annual salary.

She said she had repeatedly told Providence that she was already stretched thin as a single mother with a toddler. Providence’s representatives asked if she could pay half the amount. On later calls, she said, she was offered a payment plan.

“It was like they were following some script,” she said. “Like robots.”

Later that year, a Providence executive questioned why Ms. Weller had a balance, given her low income, according to emails disclosed in Washington’s litigation with Providence. A colleague replied that her debts previously would have been forgiven but that Providence’s new policy meant that “balances after Medicaid are being excluded from presumptive charity process.”

Ms. Weller said she had to change her phone number to make the calls stop. Her credit score plummeted from a decent 650 to a lousy 400. She has not paid any of her bill.

Susan C. Beachy and Beena Raghavendran contributed research.


>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Teen Suicide Crisis: Colorado Parents Work To Reduce State’s High Rate

Parents are sharing their tragedies in hopes of reducing suicide in Colorado. It’s the No. 1 cause of death for kids and young adults in the state.

Vicky Goodwin says February 4, 2021, is the day her world changed forever. 

“It was a Thursday morning. I got up, took my dog for a walk. I remember walking in,” she said. “Then, I walked down the hall to Jonathan’s room and opened the door, and he wasn’t in his bed, and I walked into his room and then I found him.”

Jonathan Goodwin was just 15. 

“Jonathan was incredibly bright, funny, quirky, a wonderful friend. He was a twin. He and his brother were really close,” Goodwin continued. 

But for reasons he kept hidden, Jonathan took his own life. His mom says nobody knows why. 

“It doesn’t matter how it happens. It doesn’t matter if there were signs or if there weren’t signs,” Goodwin said. “It’s just, you know, losing a child is as bad as every parent thinks that it would be.”

In the U.S., the rate of young people dying by suicide increased nearly 60% between 2007 and 2018. Researchers say trends are especially alarming among Black youth. 

In Goodwin’s home state of Colorado, suicide is the No. 1 cause of death for kids and young adults.

COVID-19 turned life upside down. Teens — already under the usual adolescent pressures of life, school, social media— are now dealing with a year-and-a-half of chronic pandemic stress. 

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Children’s Hospital Colorado Clinical Child Psychologist Jenna Glover said. “I’ve never seen this number of children who need help in mental health services. And I’ve never seen this many kids be in acute crisis.”

It’s gotten so bad that in 2021, for the first time in its 117-year history, Children’s Hospital Colorado declared a “state of emergency” for youth mental health. 

“We’re seeing lots of kids come in with depression and anxiety, really nervous about starting the school year,” Glover continued. “So, real sense of hopelessness and not knowing how to solve their problems other than, ‘I just got to get out of this.'”

Experts say the reasons behind the nationwide jump in teen suicide over the last decade are varied and hard to pin down. Social media, money or family problems, even fear of school shootings and worry about climate change can all add up.  

Making it worse, says Glover, is a shortage of professional help. 

“There are not enough mental health services,” she said. “Catching kids early on — screening them in pediatrician offices, screening them at school and when they have just the beginnings of symptoms, getting them into preventative programs, and doing immediate intervention, so they don’t show up at the emergency department — we just need more of that.”

Short of professional help, experts say one of the most effective ways to prevent suicide is to talk about it. 

“It is the most common myth that asking about suicide will increase it,” Glover said. “What we know is asking about suicide will absolutely decrease the risk of it and it keeps your kids safe.” 

If teens are reluctant to talk to adults, the hope is they’ll talk to other teens. 

Marin McKinney is a teen ambassador for a suicide prevention group called Robbie’s Hope, giving advice to other kids and adults, too. 

“It’s OK to not be OK,” Marin said. “And a lot of us … we do go through bad days and tough situations. But there’s always someone out there who wants to listen and talk to you. … I would tell a parent to not overreact or overcomplicate the situation.”

Kari Eckert and her husband started Robbie’s Hope after losing their son in 2018. 

Their home in Golden, Colorado, is now headquarters for an all-out effort to get kids and adults help to prevent suicide. They do everything from producing free guides on how to talk about it to lobbying state lawmakers for new laws.  Several states, including Colorado, now allow teens to miss school to take a mental health day.

 “Just really really good tips and it’s written by teens. … Kids bring this to the table and say, ‘It’s important to me. I shouldn’t have to lie about why I can’t be in school today,'” Eckert said. “We aren’t just about saying that teen suicide is a problem. We want to bring resources to this … We want to reduce teen suicide rates by 50% by 2028. That’s a big goal.”

For now, Goodwin is taking things day by day, hoping that being open about her tragedy helps other parents to not feel so alone.  

“I guess focusing on something positive, focusing on the gift that we have — the gift that we had — with him makes the hard days a lot easier,” she said. “Secrets are toxic. And we felt that the only way that we could make losing a child worse is by passing that burden on to our other children, and being open and choosing to talk about it has been, I think, good for all of us. We just want to help one family.”

Newsy’s mental health initiative “America’s Breakdown: Confronting Our Mental Health Crisis” brings you deeply personal and thoughtfully told stories on the state of mental health care in the U.S. Click here to learn more.

: newsy.com


>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Advocates, Patients Push For Mental Health Resources In Mississippi

The state is trying to figure out how to provide mental health patients with more community-based options.

Melody Worsham is a mother, teacher and volunteer who says she’s fought a 30-year battle with a disease that mental health professionals were supposed to help her with but instead left her feeling humiliated.  

“I live with PTSD, with psychotic features. And as soon as someone hears the word ‘psychotic,’ they think I am that person that’s in some sneaky little dark closet and I’m doing some sneaky little back-channel thing on social media, and I’m about to pull out an AR-15 and get on the rooftop somewhere,” she said. “I don’t have a dangerous bone in my body … It angers me so bad because it puts a barrier up to people asking for help because it’s that automatic.”

Worsham penned an open letter to the state’s attorney general pointing to a 2016 Department of Justice lawsuit against the state of Mississippi for unnecessarily institutionalizing adults and children with mental health disabilities.  

A federal judge agreed there should be more community-based options.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness in Mississippi says even the state’s big institutions weren’t providing the help people needed.  

Sitaniel Wimbley is the executive director of NAMI Mississippi. 

“Prime example: A lot of the facilities are in bigger cities in the state. So, if you live in a rural area, you have to manage getting to the facility,” she said. “Once you get there, you have to make sure you have an appointment. If you have an appointment, there has to be insurance. So, there’s a lot of things that go into actually getting treatment.” 

Now in 2022, the Magnolia State — known for catfish, cotton and Southern charm — is still trying to figure out how to provide patients with the necessary care closer to home.

The good news is changes are on the horizon. For starters, the state is taking full advantage of the new National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.  

“When someone calls 988, they will be either sent to an officer who has to come out — and their person should be trained to help with mental health — or a clinician can come out to that person’s home to try to do an assessment,” Wimbley said. “So, things like that are making a difference.”

Another area program making strides is NAMI’s Peer-to-Peer Program. Jessica James is one of the peers specialists in recovery who’s helping others.

“We have people who live with the mental illness that are in recovery, that are able to help others in their recovery,” she said. 

James is a longtime Mississippi resident who is proud of her accomplishments. She achieved her associate degree with honors, raised two successful kids and has been a peer support specialist with NAMI for eight years. 

For James, it was a long path to get to where she is today.  

“I really didn’t know what was going on with me until it was 2014,” she said. 

James says she suffers from anxiety, depression. 

“I also was told that I may have a little PTSD as well,” she continued.

James recalls one tough day on a job she loved. She’d been missing work but couldn’t muster the strength to get out of bed.

“I would have a boost of energy at times,” she said. “But then, all of a sudden, it just seemed like my whole world just went and crashed down.” 

A supervisor called her in an after seeing her doctor’s note  

James says the supervisor dialed the number to make sure the note was real. It was devastating for her.

“I’m seeing her do this in front of me … I felt like I’m being punished for me being sick and like she didn’t care,” she said.

That hopeless feeling didn’t last long, though. She remembered seeing the NAMI promotion table at a health fair she went to with her son. That led to a partnership between the two. 

As a peer, James now helps others push through the mental health issues she faced.

Worsham is also a peer support specialist. Newsy caught up with her during work at the Mental Health Association of South Mississippi.  

“This isn’t about looking at a disease,” she said. “It’s not what’s wrong with you, it’s what’s strong with you. That’s our focus with our people.”

She says the program isn’t what you would call “clinical.” It’s actually unique because there are no psychiatrists or licensed therapists involved, and it’s voluntary.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all model. And that’s something that those of us with lived experience, we do understand,” Worsham said. “We are about sitting down and exploring that with you and finding out what your pathway is and what’s going to work. And it might be a Franken-program, you know, you do a little 12-step thing here, or you might have some spiritual thing going on, and then you need a drop-in, you know, meditation.”

A 2019 report by Mental Health America says peer support specialists lower the cost of mental health services and help reduce the rate of hospital recidivism.  

The National Institute for Health Research also found people receiving peer support lowered the risk of being hospitalized by 14% and significantly increased recovery. 

“The state of Mississippi is now starting to focus on it a little bit more and make sure that peer specialists are in every county,” Wimbley said. “I think last year, there were 164 trained to be peer specialists across the state. And then some of those, I want to say between 10 and 12, were actually in jail systems. So, they can now lead others through their mental health journey and say, ‘It’s OK not to be OK.”

As the Magnolia State tries to grow its mental health programs to satisfy the Department of Justice, mental health advocates are helping to cultivate the Peer-to-Peer program to provide help to those in need.  

Newsy’s mental health initiative “America’s Breakdown: Confronting Our Mental Health Crisis” brings you deeply personal and thoughtfully told stories on the state of mental health care in the U.S. Click here to learn more.

: newsy.com


>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Swedish Program Aims To Fight High Youth Suicide Rate In Montana

In Montana, the youth suicide rate between 2011 and 2020 was more than double the national rate for the same age group.

Montana is known for its wide open spaces, craggy mountains and fresh, clear water. 

But for all its beauty, it’s also known for a devastating epidemic.  

The youth suicide rate in Montana between 2011 and 2020 was more than double the national rate for the same age group.  

The reasons behind the statistic are a complicated, cultural issue. A March 2022 report released by the state cites vitamin D deficiencies, altitude, social isolation and access to firearms as just a few of the reasons. It also shows 1 in 5 Montana kids live more than 100% below the federal poverty line. And the state has a high concentration of American Indians, who experience higher rates of suicide.    

Kelley Edwards is the program director for Youth Aware of Mental Health (YAM) at Montana State University’s Center for Mental Health Research and Recovery. She knows firsthand what teen suicide can do to a community.  

“I lived it. My co-workers lived it. My students lived it,” she said.

Edwards used to teach high school in Helena, Montana, where seven students in her school died by suicide in a three-year span.  

“It will never leave me what that was like,” Edwards said. 

Helena High School administrators knew something needed to happen, and they found the solution in Sweden, which is home to Youth Aware of Mental Health.  

“Helena School District was instrumental in bringing YAM to the United States, because they recognized the seriousness of the problem and wanted to do something about it,” Edwards said. 

YAM started in 2014 with the goal of bringing down teen suicide rates. 

A randomly-controlled trial with 11,000 participants showed it reduced suicide ideation and attempts by about 50%. New cases of depression fell by about 30% in kids participating.   

The program is in 16 countries and its trainers are traveling the world to expand even more. 

Edwards is a program manager and also teaches it.  

“I’ve had kids say right after a session either, ‘I’m really, really depressed,’ or possibly, even, they’ve said, ‘I’m suicidal.’ And they are. They’ve said, ‘I’m really, really worried about a friend,'” Edwards shared.

Designed for kids between 13 and 18 years old, the program consists of five five-hour sessions over three weeks, which dive into mental health literacy, role playing and identifying stressors and resources.  

“We need to get to the point where our students are comfortable with mental health knowledge, and what to do when your normal coping skills are not working or where it gets too severe that you would need professional help,” Edwards said.

But as Edwards knows, that’s not easy in rural places, like her native Montana — especially now.   

“I grew up in Denton, Montana. For students in rural areas that may not have access to anything … The best that we can provide at this point is starting with just having someone to talk to,” Edwards said. “It’s not ideal by any means. But that is where we’re at, unfortunately.”

Mary Windecker runs the advocacy group Behavioral Health Alliance of Montana. She, and so many other mental health professionals, are taking their concerns to state and federal leaders. They’re trying to get more attention and funding on this issue.    

“Overall in the United States, we’re failing our children. That’s true by every metric you could possibly measure,” Windecker said. 

And beyond Montana, people in the field of mental health are working to do what they can to help the next generation before it’s too late.

Newsy’s mental health initiative “America’s Breakdown: Confronting Our Mental Health Crisis” brings you deeply personal and thoughtfully told stories on the state of mental health care in the U.S. Click here to learn more.

: newsy.com


>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Why Is It So Difficult To Tackle Homelessness?

How to resolve homelessness is a long-running topic of conversation, with few easy answers.

The U.S. is struggling to solve its homelessness crisis.  

The number of Americans living on the streets and in shelters is growing. 

“This is home. Housing is so expensive, and you can’t afford. I would be killing myself to pay rent,” said Knoye Brown, who lives in a tent. 

Those rent prices are only increasing.  

And that means even more Americans will have a difficult time affording housing.  

When you add in record high inflation, that leaves America’s homeless even more vulnerable.  

In 2020 nearly 600,000 Americans were left without a home, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.  

Data from the non-profit organization shows overall homelessness has improved by 10% since 2007. 

But in 2020, the U.S. saw a 30% increase in unsheltered homelessness.  

And in recent months homelessness has reached crisis levels in major cities across the country. 

This year Knoxville saw a 50% increase in its homeless population, Long Beach, California saw a 62% increase since 2020 and

Phoenix saw a 33% spike.  

Homelessness can come in many forms and can impact all ages.  

In January 2020 70% of the homeless were individuals and 30% belonged to families with children.  

“I wasn’t able to finish school because I didn’t know where I would sleep after school. So I would stay where I was at, so I had a spot,” said Conner Showen, a former young homeless person.  

States and cities have set aside more funding to try to curb the issue. 

New York has more than doubled its spending to over $3 billion since 2014. 

Colorado’s governor approved $45 million to convert a youth corrections facility into a homeless recovery campus.  

And in New Mexico, $10 million is going to communities to buy old motels and hotels and transform them into transitional housing. 

These are just a string of new methods in an attempt to tackle a problem that goes back decades. 

According to Bloomberg, homelessness first peaked after the Civil War when veterans without jobs struggled to find housing and freed slaves struggled to find affordable homes or jobs.   

From then on affordable homes were demolished in many minority neighborhoods as part of urban renewal. 

In the 1970s investment in public housing started to decline when President Richard Nixon imposed a moratorium on new public housing after he declared them a failure, and instead pivoted to housing subsidies. 

And in the 80s welfare programs to support those in need were cut under President Ronald Reagan’s economic plans to lower taxes for businesses.  

Bloomberg adds the AIDS crisis that hit the LGBTQ+ community, a drug epidemic and mass incarceration of people, specifically Black or Hispanic people, also fueled the problem.  

This was further exacerbated by policies that favor single family housing zones.  

According to the New York Times, most land plots are designed for a single-family house. Many state laws and zoning rules limit the land that can be used to build multi-unit buildings, like apartment buildings that can house multiple families.   

“Really it’s a blend of a trifecta of affordable housing, mental illness and substance abuse. When you add those three at various levels for each person, this is what we’re facing,” said Jeff Hicks, the executive director of Hope Rescue Mission.   

Other states like California and Oregon have taken other approaches and passed laws in recent years to end single-family zoning so more affordable housing can be built.  

Some cities, like Missoula, Montana have moved toward sanction camps, known as temporary safe outdoor spaces.  

“49% of the people that have gone through here are now permanently in housing, recovery, or in areas where we mended some family situations, but they have not turned back to the system,” said April Seat, the director of outreach at Hope Rescue Mission. 

In the last year a number of state legislatures introduced bills that some say criminalize homelessness.  

In Tennessee, it’s now a felony for homeless people to camp in parks or other public property. Some argue this is not the solution. 

“I believe it’s only a misdemeanor but with a small misdemeanor and a failure to appear, now you have warrants. You can be jailed at any time, it’s difficult to walk into a state building or federally funded building because you’re worried instead of getting help or resources, you’re scared you’re going to get indebted to a lack of it all,” said Seat. 

Others, like Judge Glock with the Cicero Institute, believe camping bans are the right path to helping the homeless long-term. 

And record-high inflation is adding another hurdle for Americans struggling to keep up with rising rent prices. 

For some those rent price increases are simply unaffordable.  

“We do see people falling into homelessness because they can’t afford rent. It’s not like it’s being raised $30 to $60 and some areas are raising $200,” said Seat. 

According to government data reviewed by the LA Times, new rent leases have increased by more than 11% year-over-year. 

And polling from Freddie Mac found a majority of renters saw a rent price hike in the last year. 

One in five say they’re “extremely likely” to miss a payment. 

The severity of America’s homeless problem ranges depending on the city and state, but cities across the country are taking action to address the problem. 

The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness says the solution is to tackle the housing issue, integrate healthcare, strengthen crisis response systems and build career pathways. But this can’t be done without building and fostering partnerships to address the root causes of homelessness.  

: newsy.com


>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Former President Barack Obama, First Lady Unveil White House Portraits

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden invited Obama and the former first lady back to their former home to unveil their official portraits.

Former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle returned to the White House on Wednesday for the unveiling of official portraits with a modern vibe: him standing expressionless against a white background and her seated on a sofa in the Red Room wearing a formal light blue dress.

“Barack and Michelle, welcome home,” President Joe Biden said before he invited the Obamas to the stage to unveil the portraits. Some in the audience gasped, others applauded.

“It’s great to be back,” Obama said when it was his turn to speak. He praised Biden — his vice president — as someone who became a “true partner and a true friend.”

The artist whom Barack Obama selected to paint his portrait says the “stripped down” style of his works helps create an “encounter” between the person in the painting and the person looking at it.

Robert McCurdy likes to present his subjects without any facial expression and standing against a white background, which is how America’s 44th and first Black president will be seen here for posterity, in a black suit and gray tie.

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden invited Obama and the former first lady back to their former home to unveil their official portraits. It was Mrs. Obama’s first visit since her husband’s presidency ended in January 2017. Obama himself visited in April to help celebrate the anniversary of the major health care law he signed.

The former first lady chose artist Sharon Sprung for her portrait.

The portraits do not look like any others in the collection to which they will be added, in terms of style and substance.

McCurdy told the White House Historical Association for the latest edition of its “1600 Sessions” podcast that his style is “stripped down for a reason.” He’s also done portraits of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and the Dalai Lama, among others.

“They have plain white backgrounds, nobody gestures, nobody — there are no props because we’re not here to tell the story of the person that’s sitting for them,” McCurdy said. “We’re here to create an encounter between the viewer and the sitter.”

He compared the technique to a session with a psychiatrist in which the patient and doctor tell each other as little as possible about themselves “so that you can project onto them.”

“And we’re doing the same thing with these paintings,” McCurdy said. “We’re telling as little about the sitter as possible so that the viewer can project onto them.”

McCurdy works from a photograph of his subjects, selected from hundreds of images. He spends a year to 18 months on each portrait and said he knows he’s done “when it stops irritating me.”

Sprung, who also was interviewed for the podcast, described feeling as though she was in a “comedy sketch” when she met with the Obamas in the Oval Office.

She kept sinking into the couch she sat on while they sat on sturdier chairs. Then the president “flicked” away the printed talking points she had handed out to everyone in the room. Then she just “went still” and had to “gasp for air a little bit” when someone else in the meeting asked her why she paints. Then she started to cry.

“So who knows what put the interview over the top, but that’s how it went,” Sprung said.

She had planned on having Mrs. Obama stand in the portrait, “to give it a certain dignity,” but said the former first lady “has so much dignity that I decided to do it sitting just because … it was too much looking up at her. I’m that much shorter than her.”

Sprung worked on the portrait for eight months, day and night, the most time she’s ever spent on a single painting. She worked entirely from photographs taken in various locations on the State Floor of the White House. Getting the dress just right was the hardest part, she said.

“The color was so beautiful and I really wanted to get the strength of the color and the light,” said Sprung, who has done portraits of the late Rep. Patsy Mink, D-Hawaii, and Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the first woman elected to Congress.

Recent tradition, no matter political affiliation, has had the current president genially hosting his immediate predecessor for the unveiling — as Bill Clinton did for George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush did for Clinton and Obama did for the younger Bush.

Donald Trump, who criticized almost everything about Obama and deviated from many presidential traditions, held no ceremony for Obama. So President Biden, who was Obama’s vice president, scheduled one for his former boss.

Obama’s portrait is destined for display in the Grand Foyer of the White House, the traditional showcase for paintings of the two most recent presidents. Clinton’s and George W. Bush’s portraits currently hang there.

Mrs. Obama’s portrait likely will be placed with her predecessors along the hallway on the Ground Floor of the White House, joining Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush.

Both McCurdy and Sprung said it was hard to keep their work on the portraits secret. McCurdy said it wouldn’t have been a problem “if it had not gone on for so long.” Sprung said she had to turn the portrait to the wall whenever someone came into her studio in New York.

The White House Historical Association, a nonprofit organization that is funded through private donations and sales of books and an annual Christmas ornament, helps manage the portrait process and, since the 1960s, has paid for most of those in the collection.

Congress bought the first painting in the collection, of George Washington. Other portraits of early presidents and first ladies often came to the White House as gifts.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

: newsy.com


>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Eating Disorders Increased Sharply In Teens During Pandemic

Experts reported an increase in emergency room treatment and helpline support for eating disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ali Caudle has always known determination and persistence. She’s a star swimmer, co-editor of her high school newspaper and was accepted into Northeastern University to pursue a journalism career.  

Like so many other teens, she’s tackling mental health issues exacerbated by the pandemic.  

“So many of my friends are also struggling with mental illness right now,” Caudle said. “Honestly, it’s harder to find a friend who isn’t struggling with anything at all. Almost everyone is.”

Caudle’s eating disorder started a few years before the pandemic, in the ninth grade. She was 14 years old.

“My therapist talks a lot about it being kind of like an addiction, like you’re addicted to not eating,” Caudle said. “But unlike other addicts, you can’t just avoid food like you can avoid alcohol or avoid smoking. You have to eat, so you have to face that multiple times a day, every day.”

At 5 feet 2 inches tall, she dropped below 100 pounds. Her period stopped. That’s when her doctor talked to her about putting on healthy weight.  

“That’s all the conversation ever was; there was no talk about like the mental side of things,” Caudle said. ” Like, what is the trauma that this is coming from? It’s just, ‘Let’s get you to a healthy weight, and everything will be solved.'”

And, it was — until March 2020, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It kept dragging on and on, and I remember I started to be like, ‘I need to make sure I look good when we come out of lockdown,” Caudle said.

She returned to school full-time at the start of her junior year. Between swimming, pursuing an international baccalaureate diploma and other extracurriculars, it became overwhelming.

“I fell into a full-blown relapse,” Caudle said. 

A CDC report released earlier this year found the number of teen girls going to the emergency room for eating disorders almost doubled during the pandemic.

The National Eating Disorders Association says its helpline reported a 58% increase in calls, texts and chats between March 2020 and October of 2021, but experts think the real numbers could be even higher.

“[It] was like nothing I’ve seen in my entire career: the explosion of need out of the pandemic,” said Dr. Jillian Lampert.

Dr. Lampert is chief strategy officer for the Emily Program. It has 20 locations across the country, from inpatient to virtual care.  

“Overnight, we had twice as many people knocking on the door or calling on the phone, sending in emails,” Dr. Lampert said. 

Wait lists across the country became unmanageable.  

“I think that the pandemic really yielded the perfect recipe to get an eating disorder,” Dr. Lampert said. “If you were ever going to create an eating disorder, you would take a huge dose of anxiety, a huge dose of isolation, and stir it up in a big container of social media pressure.”

Social media, designed to be addictive, is a constant presence in most teens’ lives. Experts say it was to blame for eating disorders long before the pandemic, but for teens like Caudle, more time online during lockdown piled on the pressure.  

“You click on one thing that may be promoting something… you shouldn’t be engaging with, and then all of a sudden, that’s all you see,” Caudle said. “Suddenly it’s everywhere, and you feel like you can’t escape it.”

Dr. Caitlin Martin-Wagar is the sole doctor at the University of Montana researching eating disorder treatments, and also trying to fill the gap in services through her own practice.  

“I hadn’t even launched my website, and I was able to fill up to what I wanted with patients right off the bat,” said Dr. Martin-Wagar. “We know that the longer people suffer with an eating disorder, the less likely they are to have quick and full recovery. There’s a lot of hope, though. We need to be keeping an eye on things and really making sure that we get people in treatment as soon as possible.”

Advocates say no matter where you are, reaching out is critical.  

“We hear from our program and others where people who are waiting for care, who end up dying,” Dr. Lampert said. “These are treatable illnesses. People shouldn’t have to die from eating disorders. That’s horrifying. Every time we hear that, it’s heart wrenching. We know that somebody dies every 52 minutes from an eating disorder.”

“You convinced yourself that you have it under control, even when you clearly don’t,” Caudle said.

A turnaround came for Caudle when one of her teachers noticed something wrong. 

“She stepped in and was like ‘something is not right, and I know it’s not right,'” Caudle said. “You feel so disconnected from everything, and you feel like if you look around, there’s no way out.”

It was the support she needed to crawl out. Caudle started counseling and met with a dietitian. She changed her Instagram habits.  

“One of the first steps I took is to cleanse my social media feed,” Caudle said. 

Now as Caudle and so many others like her prepare for another big change — college — she’s arming herself with tools to stay on track.  

“I think I’m at a point where I can move into the future and not have to worry about it as much,” Caudle said. “I can sit down and enjoy a meal with my family, or I can let go, grab food late at night with my friends, and it doesn’t feel like some big insurmountable challenge.”

But she knows the challenge is still very real for so many others and hopes her story inspires others to take the first step.

: newsy.com


>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Colorado Mom Guilty Of Qanon Kidnapping Conspiracy

By Associated Press
August 27, 2022

The foster mom was also found guilty of a misdemeanor count of child abuse.

A Colorado mother accused of plotting to kidnap her son from foster care after her teen daughter said she started associating with supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory was found guilty of conspiracy to commit second-degree kidnapping on Friday.

Cynthia Abcug, 53, denied she was involved in planning a raid on the foster home where her then 7-year-old son lived in the fall of 2019. She had lost custody of him earlier that year after being accused of medical child abuse — lying about him having seizures and other health problems in order to trick doctors into providing unnecessary care.

Jurors also found Abcug guilty of a misdemeanor count of child abuse. She is scheduled to be sentenced in October.

Her son, now 10, is still in foster care and has not had serious health problems since being removed from Abcug, according to prosecutors.

Abcug’s lawyers suggested that a drug prescribed to treat the seizures was responsible for at least some of the boy’s health problems. Doctors had begun weaning him from the medication before he was removed from Abcug’s custody.

Abcug moved her family to Colorado in the fall of 2017 at the suggestion of a doctor in Florida in hopes that neurologists at Children’s Hospital Colorado could find out what the cause of his health problems were.

Abcug testified that after her son was removed in May 2019 she was extremely anxious and reached out on social media for help getting her son back. She told jurors she ended up meeting members of a group that said it was working on reforming the family court system and offered to help her get her son back legally. She said it turned out to be a scam with members interested in stealing money raised online to help parents who had lost custody of their children.

She did not describe the group as being involved with QAnon but said she heard references to the conspiracy theory by people she met through her activism online.

Many QAnon supporters believe former President Donald Trump was fighting enemies in the so-called deep state to expose a group of satanic, cannibalistic child molesters they believe secretly runs the globe.

Around this time, Abcug posted on social media that social workers took children to sell them and sent them to other countries for adoption.

The conspiracy theory was not a main issue in the trial, which focused more on detailed testimony from medical providers and educators about Abcug’s medical history.

Abcug said she heard references to QAnon in passing in talking to people she met online. Rubber bracelets with a phrase used by QAnon supporters, Storm Is Upon Us, as well as a website known for posts about QAnon printed on them were found in Abcug’s home, according to police.

Abcug’s daughter, who was 16 at the time, told authorities she was concerned because her mother had been talking about a raid on the foster home for several months and that she believed people were going to be hurt because those involved believed her brother was wrongfully taken from his home, according to Abcug’s arrest affidavit. Her daughter also told them her mother had allowed a military veteran she believed to be armed to sleep on their couch to provide security, it said.

Abcug said the group she was working with arranged to send the man to protect her after the lock of her back sliding door was found broken. He has been been identified by police but has not been charged. In response to a question from the jury, she acknowledged she had never met him before she allowed him to stay with her.

Abcug said she bought a gun around this time because she feared for her safety but never made it to an appointment for a training class and has never fired it. Police found the appointment listed on the house’s whiteboard calendar when Abcug’s daughter was also removed from the home after reporting her concerns.

After her daughter was removed, Abcug said the man providing security coordinated with others to take her to a “safe house” and implied that she was held against her will. Abcug said her phone was taken from her and she was held for three months in a hotel.

Abcug was arrested in Montana on Dec. 30, 2019.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

: newsy.com


>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

California Mental Health Workers Go On Strike

Mental health clinicians are going on a mental health strike, as many providers complain their patients are getting the help they need.

In Northern California Monday, thousands of mental health clinicians are starting an open-ended strike over long wait times. 

Heavy workloads are worrying about patients who aren’t getting care, as a national mental health crisis balloons. 

Gary Stone is the captain of Lakewood, Ohio Police Department. 

“I’m seeing it building where there’s more of these calls we’re going on,” Stone said.  

In Lakewood, police are responding to mental health or substance abuse crisis calls and are seeing 23% more activity in their crisis intervention sector. 

“Weekly, we have multiple calls that are dealing with people who are having troubles,” said Captain Gerald Vogel of the Westlake Ohio Police Department.  

The World Health Organization says globally the pandemic triggered a 25% increase in anxiety and depression. 

Chelsea Wise-Diangson is a Kaiser Permanente mental health care provider. 

“They’re seeing 200 to 300 patients that are on their caseload, and that’s not healthy,” Wise-Diangson said. 

And in Northern California, the union representing the striking workers says Kaiser, the nation’s largest non-profit HMO, is only staffing one mental health clinician for every 2,600 workers.  

It’s leading to long wait times and heavy workloads. 

“We do absolutely zero preventative mental health care, which is an enormous flaw in the system. But we’re not intended to be doing exclusively crisis intervention. But unfortunately, that’s pretty much what we’re doing these days. Given the frequency we’re able to see patients,” Wise-Diangson said. 

Kaiser says it has added a net 200 new clinicians since the start of last year. 

But it’s not enough to stop a strike, right as parents from coast to coast stress about the coming school year, and their kids do the same. 

“Returning for school under the best of circumstances is a time of a plethora of emotions and there’s a lot of overwhelming things that they’re dealing with because these are not normal times,” Wise-Diangson said.  

In Montana, Beth Price Morrison is worried about kids with COVID stress, and school shootings on their minds. 

“Eleven percent of our high school students in Cascade County in 2021 attempted suicide,” Morrison said.  

And in Michigan, Dr. Adlee Cadieux is seeing more and more traffic in her medical center’s behavioral health unit. 

“Sometimes anxiety actually comes out more as anger and irritability. So some kids… you know, seem to be just upset or really frustrated all the time, or getting angry really easily,” Dr. Cadieux said.  

It’s a call to parents as a global mental health crisis is prompting health care workers to take the fight into their own hands, and demand their patients have access to the care they need. 

“I have to believe that someone at that bargaining table is finally going to say, ‘you know what? Like they’re right. Like, this isn’t the top tier mental health care that we want to be providing. We’ve got to make a change,'” Wise-Diangson said. 

: newsy.com


>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Rain Is Helping Keep McKinney Fire Down, But Hotter Days Ahead Won’t

Rain is helping keep the growth of the McKinney fire down, but hotter, drier days ahead is expected to cause increased activity in the blaze.

In northern California, growing fires have given way to dangerous mudslides, as heavy rains prompt flooding in evacuation zones.

“This area of the fire, the east side, some areas got up to three inches of rain in just over an hour,” said Dennis Burns, a fire behavior analyst.

They’re pouring on some of the fire while crews backed off firefighting.

“We actually had to have some crews shelter in place until they can get out today and assess the roads,” Burns said.

The rains only helped some of the burn area, and forecasters expect temperatures to increase and rainfall to decrease in the days ahead.

“I’ve never seen such a wasteland,” said Bill Simms, who lost his home. “There was no birds. There’s nothing, nothing.” 

He and other residents are now learning of destroyed homes and lost neighbors and friends.

“I didn’t think I’d get emotional,” Simms said. “I don’t get emotional about stuff, but when you hear my next-door neighbors died, Chuck and his wife. They couldn’t get out because they always locked their gate, and he couldn’t get out. Then my other neighbor died, Uncle Johnny, and this is within a half a mile. They both died. That gets a little emotional when you see it going down there, because I care about people.”

The McKinney Fire is one of the largest of 62 large fires burning across 15 states, forcing evacuations across the west. 

“I just try to take it in stride and make the best of it and figure it could be worse,” said Miki Peterson, a Montana evacuee, said.

The Elmo 2 fire in Montana is burning more than 16,000 acres and threatening nearby communities.

The Moose Fire in Idaho is burning 58,000 acres and is just 20% contained. 

Two larger fires in Alaska and New Mexico are almost entirely contained but collectively burned nearly 550,000 acres.

The National Interagency Fire Center reports this fire season has the most active fires to this point in the year of any season in the last decade, and it’s burned more acres to this point than any season since 2015. Scientists say climate change has made the West warmer and drier and expect wildfires to be more frequent and destructive.

“I’m sad,” sad Harlene Schwander, who lost her home in a wildfire. “Everybody says it was just stuff, but it was all I had. I’ve been single for a long time, and I just I’m going to have to cope.”

: newsy.com


>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<